In this preliminary study, I explore the literary fixation on female virtue and how it is tied to classic Confucian discourses on women. I will consider why, despite the generations of assimilation into local society, the Peranakan Chinese were still so fixated with Confucian concepts of female virtue and its related meanings of purity, chastity and morality. I will also address the following questions: How does this fixation feed into cultural prescriptions and constructions of femininities in life and in literature? Is there a split between the imagining of female virtue and actual gender practices, especially in the face of modernization and women’s emancipation movements? In what ways is female virtue important to the racial and political self-identification as Tionghoa?
Grace Chin is a visiting fellow at KITLV. Her research interests include the literatures of postcolonial Southeast Asia and Asian women’s writings, with emphasis on gender identities and subjectivities in contemporary societies and diasporas.
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